Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal speaks during a press conference in Algiers on January 21, 2012, where he warned other nations to prepare for a higher body count after a four-day siege of a gas plant by Islamist militants ended in a bloodbath, amid fears as many as 50 hostages may have died.
Details have emerged in fits and starts from the messy siege in Algeria that ended Saturday. Yesterday, the death toll grew to include 37 foreign hostages -- including three Americans--, 29 militants and one Algerian security guard, according to the Algerian government. The siege began last Wednesday when dozens of militants took control of the Ain Amenas natural gas plant. More than 700 workers were trapped hostages at the facility.
The Al Qaeda linked militants reportedly were demanding the release of two terror convicts jailed in the United States - Omar Abdel Rahman, convicted of plotting to blow up New York City landmarks and considered the spiritual leader of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist convicted of shooting at two U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. "The United States does not negotiate with terrorists," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last week. Algeria -- a country that has a long history of insurgent violence -- has the same policy.
Could there have been another way to deal with the militants? Would any other offer have saved the workers who died? Or does a blanket policy against hostage negotiations help prevent more violence?
Martha Crenshaw, Senior Fellow, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University
Mark R. Jacobson, Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund. He focuses on defense and security policy, specifically emerging threats and challenges.